By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea and Llandovery brought the curtain down on their Fosters Challenge Cup campaigns by putting on a thriller at St Helen’s.
With both sides continuing their policy of fielding a handful of players on permit from local clubs, it was a chance for fringe players to put their hands up for a starting place in next week’s all-important Swalec Cup first round matches.
The All Whites were already condemned to bottom place in the group, but the Drovers did have a sniff of a semi-final place going into the match, but this was taken out of their hands as Carmarthen eased to victory over Llanelli to seal top place.
It was certainly not a night for defence and pacey winger Jack Parkinson began proceedings by making a break over the twenty-two, finding flanker Richard Rees in support. He threw a pass to centre Rhodri Jones, who was held up over the line. From the resulting scrum both hooker Ryan Williams and lock Jake Baker came close to scoring, before the All Whites turned over possession.
The visitors showed great enterprise in the early exchanges and a burst through the middle by flanker Emyr Price and great handling skills by Jones and winger Rhodri Wall sent Rees over for a try. Fly half James Davies converted.
It took the home side just three minutes to get back on parity when lock Gavin Ronan and flanker Jon Fox charged forward, the latter offloading to centre Ewan Gully, who sprinted through a stretched Llandovery defence. He found scrum half Martin Luckwell, who threw a scoring pass out wide to Ronan. Fly half Jac Wilson converted.
Swansea took the lead in spectacular fashion when number eight Rory Gallagher raced over half way and found Fox, who cleverly offloaded to Gully. He found hooker Alex Dunham on the wing, who threw an inside pass for winger Richard Thomas to touch down. Wilson converted.
Gallagher then ran out of defence from a scrum and replacement flanker Tudor Hughes took the ball at pace with the Drovers’ defence struggling to haul him down. He offloaded to Gully, who powered onwards, but the move broke down.
Hughes then caught a lineout and the Drovers’ pack entered a maul from the wrong side. Wilson kicked to touch and Hughes again collected the lineout with flanker Jack Perkins driven over for a try. Wilson converted.
The visitors hit back when Jones made a break into the Swansea twenty-two following a missed tackle and he threw a scoring pass to Wall in the corner. Davies converted.
Llandovery continued their comeback with a routine lineout that saw their backs get the ball quickly out wide for Wall to grab his second try in the corner. Davies’ conversion attempt hit the post.
A moment of fortune led to the Drovers’ fourth and bonus point try. Thomas failed to deal with a dodgy bounce and the ball fell into the grateful hands of Jones, who sprinted clear and with just Luckwell to beat, he threw an inside pass to Parkinson, who scored. Davies converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 21 Llandovery 26
After the interval, the Drovers looked like adding to their try count when their backs split the Whites’ defence, but centre David Watts illegally stopped the move with an early tackle, which led to him being sin-binned. Davies kicked the penalty goal.
Despite being down to 14 men it was the All Whites who upped the pressure with Gallagher pealing away from a scrum, sending Ronan burrowing through a ruck over the twenty-two. Prop Lewys Bullock continued the momentum and created a platform for Gully to use his strength out wide to score. Wilson hit the post with his conversion attempt.
An attempted clearance kick by Thomas was charged down by Price, but Wilson rescued the situation, allowing Luckwell to blast the ball out of play.
Full back Josh Jones split the Drovers’ defence, but he took the wrong option by chipping ahead when he had men over. Parkinson got back to comfortably ground the ball dead.
Price then broke clear from a scrum, with the supporting prop Berian Watkins making further yards into Whites territory. The home side were caught offside at the breakdown and Davies kicked to the corner.
The visitors battered the Swansea line and finally Parkinson took a pass on an angle that bamboozled the defence, allowing him to score under the posts. Davies converted.
The All Whites were right back in the match when Gully took the ball at pace and raced past a tackler. He found the replacement full back Luke Griffiths on his shoulder and he raced clear to score in the corner. Replacement fly half Rory Garrett missed the conversion.
Gallagher ran straight back at the Drovers’ defence from the restart, but Garrett kicked the ball away. However, Davies did the same with James rampaging over half way, finding Hughes in support, although his pass to winger Jon Bayliss sailed into touch.
Number eight Joseff Powell looked to have sealed the win, but he lost the ball over the try line under pressure.
The Whites had one final opportunity to claim victory when Griffiths and Bayliss broke from deep, but Thomas put a foot in touch as he raced towards the line.
Next up for Swansea is a trip to Newport, while Llanelli host Pontypool – both in the WRU Challenge Cup.
Full-time:- Swansea 31 Llandovery 36
Tries:- Gavin Ronan (9), Richard Thomas (12), Jack Perkins (24), Ewan Gully (49), Luke Griffiths (69)
Cons:- Jac Wilson (10, 13, 25)
Yellow cards:- David Watts (44)
Tries:- Richard Rees (6), Rhodri Wall (27, 38), Jack Parkinson (40+2, 65)
Cons:- James Davies (7, 28, 40+3, 66)
Pens:- James Davies (44)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Dewi Phillips
Weather:- Cloudy, 6C
Man of the match:- Rhodri Jones
15 Josh Jones (rep: Luke Griffiths 63)
14 Jon Bayliss
13 Ewan Gully
12 David Watts
11 Richard Thomas
10 Jac Wilson (rep: Rory Garrett 70)
9 Rhodri Wells (rep: Martin Luckwell 20)
1 Dan Kenny (rep: Tom Sloane 52)
2 Alex Dunham (rep: Ashleigh James 52)
3 Lewys Bullock (rep: Richard Murphy 52)
4 Gavin Ronan
5 Jay Williams
6 Jon Fox © (rep: Tudor Hughes 13)
7 Jack Perkins
8 Rory Gallagher
16 Ashley James
17 Tom Sloane
18 Richard Murphy
19 Tudor Hughes
20 Ross Barnes
21 Martin Luckwell
22 Rory Garrett
23 Luke Griffiths
15 Mike Evans (rep: Steffan Pryce-Griffiths 21)
14 Rhodri Wall
13 Jack Price
12 Rhodri Jones
11 Jack Parkinson
10 James Davies (rep: Craig Woodall 80)
9 Alex Davies (rep: Scott Gibson 52)
1 Jamie Hughes (rep: Owen Howells 68)
2 Ryan Williams (rep: Matthew Hudson 51)
3 Berian Watkins (rep: Bradley Davies 68)
4 Jake Baker
5 Jake Simm (rep: Stefan Taffetsauffer 52)
6 Emyr Price (rep: Ellis Richards 74)
7 Richard Rees
8 Joseff Powell
16 Owen Howells
17 Bradley Davies
18 Stefan Taffetsauffer
19 Ellis Richards
20 Matthew Hobson
21 Craig Woodall
22 Steffan Pryce-Griffiths
23 Scott Gibson